Maryland men’s basketball made just one three-pointer in the first half of its matchup with Nebraska.
Just 26 seconds into the second half, Fatts Russell drained his team’s second one. And he set the tone for the half at the same time.
Minutes later, Russell forced Trey McGowens to make a bad pass. Russell snagged the ball and fired it to Donta Scott who was down the court alone. Scott caught the ball, jumped and jammed it through the hoop.
After struggling in the opening minutes of the game, Russell came alive and lifted his team with him. Maryland led for the entire second half — this shift in momentum powered the Terps to a 90-74 win over the Cornhuskers.
Maryland snapped its five-game losing streak in Lincoln after a contentious bout with Nebraska.
“It only takes one win to get it going. I felt like this one was pretty good,” Russell said. “We had it on for the majority of the game. . . I feel like we’re building momentum at the right time.”
The Cornhuskers opened the match the same way that they opened their only Big Ten win of the season against Minnesota — with a long alley-oop. Alonzo Verge Jr. hurled the ball to a jumping Bryce McGowens who slammed the ball through the net.
Eric Ayala checked in for the first time after five minutes ticked off the clock. Ayala’s wrist was taped and the impact of his injury showed in the score column. Ayala finished the first half with just two points, both of them coming at the free-throw line 13 minutes into the game.
However, Ayala managed three assists in the first half. He assisted Hakim Hart on a dunk and Julian Reese on an and-one layup.
“[Ayala is] out there talking, he’s out there leading,” Russell said. “I know he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well or he wasn’t as aggressive as Eric Ayala is, but he did the little things today and we needed every single one of them.”
Maryland’s start to the first half was all Reese. He dropped 13 points in 10 minutes of playing time — he broke his previous career-high of 12 in one half of basketball.
Reese took a midrange jump shot and was fouled by Verge — this started Reese’s perfect half at the line. He made all five free throws he took in the opening 20 minutes.
Interim head coach Danny Manning’s squad exploited Nebraska’s defense multiple times. Scott and Reese were able to get their own rebounds and put up second-chance points.
Reese’s production slowed in the second half and he failed to score after the opening half. He fouled Bryce McGowens and pushed him back down to the court after the fact. Reese’s impulsiveness came close to getting him ejected and he eventually fouled out of the game.
The Terps were able to keep Bryce McGowens — the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Week — mostly quiet from the field. But he went in on Maryland from the free-throw line. He had 11 points in the first half and seven of them came from the charity stripe.
Russell struggled to register a point in the beginning of the game. With Verge guarding him on defense, Russell wasn’t seeing many scoring opportunities.
But after he forced him into foul trouble, Russell took advantage of Verge’s time on the bench. He scored 11 points in the first half in Verge’s absence and finished the game with a team-high 23 points.
It was an usually polished half for the Terps, as they registered just one turnover. Maryland headed to the locker room up by a basket, 42-40.
At the end of the game, Maryland had just four turnovers, a small number for Manning’s squad.
“The one thing I was shocked by, to be honest with you, when the game was over, we only had four turnovers,” Manning said. “For us to take care of the basketball against that type of pressure was really good for us.”
Russell opened the half with a three — just Maryland’s second of the game.
Russell’s steal was one of many that the Terps grabbed from the Huskers. Maryland had nine to Nebraska’s one.
After not seeing the court for much of the conference slate, Ian Martinez took the court for 17 minutes against Nebraska. Martinez stole the ball and slammed a windmill dunk to put his team up, 70-54, in the second half. For Maryland’s next points, Martinez stole the ball again and broke away for an and-one layup.
Martinez also assisted on two baskets. One of his assists came off another steal. Martinez ripped the ball away from a Cornhusker and he threw the ball to an isolated Russell who laid it in the net. Nebraska turned the ball over 12 times and the Terps turned them into 21 points — Martinez led his team in steals with four on the night.
“I try to just help the team, bring in energy, especially on the defensive side,” Martinez said. “I try to talk, pressure the ball, just put a different vibe into the game as soon as I step out there on the court.”
The Terps were unable to keep Bryce McGowens down for the entire game. He dropped 14 points in the second half and made 14 of his 15 free throws. But his contributions weren’t enough to lift his team above Maryland.
Martinez punctuated the Terps’ victory with another dunk. He proved himself against Nebraska, finishing the game with 10 points.
After shooting 46 percent in the first half, Maryland’s shooting rocketed up to 59 percent in the second. The Terps clocked a much-needed road win after it played an energetic game of basketball.
“We had a lot of guys score the ball for us, which is always good,” Manning said. “But I think our bigs set the tone early. And not a lot of time to enjoy or celebrate the win because we got a quick turnaround, we play again on Monday.”